As part of The Kitchen Skinny family, you’ve heard us share the benefits of cooking with coconut oil versus olive oil. It’s one of the first switches we make with our clients as they prepare more meals at home.
The primary reason is that olive oil, due to its chemical structure, is susceptible to oxidative damage when heated. Whereas coconut oil more stable. (Note coconut oil is solid like butter until heated).
In the average person’s kitchen, coconut oil and olive oil are the only two oils you really ‘need’.
But, here’s where it gets a little tricky.
Note that I said ‘general rule of thumb’. That means that not every rule applies to every body.
That’s the tricky thing when it comes to nutrition. We have a tendency to read something and add it to our lives without really understanding the reason behind it or looking at how it impacts our personal health goals.
I don’t know about you, but at our house, we used to use a lot of olive oil. We grew up when the Mediterranean Diet was getting a lot of attention. And, somewhere in that era we got the message that olive oil was ‘heart-healthy’. To us, that meant if you want a healthy heart, you should use olive oil. So we poured it on our salad, our stir frys, our bread. We used it for everything and honestly thought we were doing our hearts a favor by adding this important ingredient to our routine.
Today we know better.
Oils are tricky business.
(Actually, they literally are tricky business. If you want to go crazy, you can Google around for the whole scandal around fake olive oils…or read the book on it…that’s a lot of fun. And, now with all of the attention that coconut oil is getting, I’m sure we’ll see a fair amount of scandal there as well.)
But, unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it’s not going to help you get dinner on the table.
So, here’s what you need to know about oils.
Simply put…Oils are fat. They are calorically dense. And, they are a processed food. (And, if you’re like most of us, I’m guessing these are all things you’re trying to avoid).
When we hear claims that olive or coconut oils are heart-healthy, it’s easy to misinterpret. We translate that into thinking – the more the better.
But, oils should always be used in moderation.
Especially for us here in the U.S. who grew up on the Standard American Diet.
When you live in a world where heart disease is the number one killer, you have every reason to consider minimizing (if not avoiding) oils all together.
Go to your cupboard today and take a look at your crackers, breads, chips. What do you see on the ingredient list? Oils. The fact is we’re getting them everywhere. It sneaks up on you. So, if you’re serious about preventing heart disease or you’re concerned that heart disease runs in your family, oils (of any kind) should definitely be on your watch list.
Some general guidelines:
- Remember that olive oil and coconut oil are highly processed foods. (And, like many of our recommendations, you want to avoid the concentrated, processed stuff as much as possible because of the lack of fiber, minerals, etc.) Instead, get your healthy fats from whole foods – i.e. avocados, nuts, seeds (unless you have established heart disease in which case you may wish to pursue a more aggressive approach)
- Dietary fat of all kinds contains more calories than other nutrients. (9 calories per 1 g) MayoClinic.com recommends getting no more than 20 to 35 percent of your total calories from dietary fat. Get no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat — or 7 percent or less, if you’re concerned about heart disease.
- Use your oils sparingly. When you need an oil for cooking, use a little coconut oil. When you need an oil for dressing, use a little olive oil.
When you hear someone recommend an oil as ‘heart healthy’ just know that doesn’t mean it’s a cure for heart disease. It simply means it is less harmful than some of your other choices.
That’s always the scary thing about recommendations. With everyone hearing about the benefits of cooking with coconut oil, pretty soon all of us Americans will be cooking everything in coconut oil (they way we moved from butter to olive oil) and we’ll end up with more heart disease because we slathered on too much! (Or we’ll decide donuts are healthy as long as they are fried in coconut oil.)
Know your oils. Know your health goals. Be smart.
If your goal is to avoid the number one killer for Americans – heart disease – then this is definitely information you want to take to heart.
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